Union County, NJ – February 18, 2022 — Flood control along the Rahway River has been a focus of effort for the Union County Board of County Commissioners, local mayors and other community stakeholders for many years, and a solution is finally in sight. Federal funding has been restored to complete a feasibility study of the upper portion of the Rahway River Basin. It will serve as the blueprint for future flood control programs.
“The feasibility study is the key to resolving flood control issues with long term solutions that protect our communities,” said Commissioner Chair Rebecca Williams. “We thank the Rahway River Mayors Council and our partners in Essex and Middlesex counties for collaborating in this effort, and we thank Senator Bob Menendez, Senator Cory Booker and Representatives Tom Malinowski and Donald Payne, Jr. in Congress for working persistently and diligently to restore federal funding for the study.”
“The feasibility study is a complex undertaking that would be impossible to accomplish with state and local resources alone, so restoring this assistance from federal sources is a critical achievement. The Commissioner Board is looking forward to working with the Mayors Council and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep this project moving forward as quickly as possible,” said Commissioner Bette Jane Kowalski, who serves as the Commissioner Board’s liaison to the Mayors Council.
“As climate control continues to wreak havoc on our state with high winds and major flooding, this funding could not come at a better time. I was proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to secure this funding for critical Army Corps projects across New Jersey and the nation. I look forward to this project’s progression which will help protect families and communities along the Rahway River Basin,” said Senator Menendez.
“It has never been a question of if the communities along the Rahway River will flood again, but when and how bad will it be. Last year, Hurricane Ida provided yet another tragic example. Despite decades of study, my constituents in Union County are still waiting for a solution, which is why I wrote legislation to bring the Army Corps of Engineers back to the table to design and construct an acceptable project. I am glad to see these efforts re-start, and I will continue to fight to ensure that these communities have the resources needed to protect their families and businesses,” said Senator Booker.
“As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I worked hard to reverse the Corps’ termination the study, to increase funding for it, and to secure explicit commitments from Corps leadership to work collaboratively with our local leaders to get it done,” said Representative Malinowski. “I’ll continue to advocate for homeowners and business owners near the Rahway River who live under the near-constant threat of flooding, and who deserve the peace of mind.”
The 82-square-mile Rahway River Basin covers a large part of Union County as well as parts of Essex and Middlesex counties, including Clark, Cranford, Fanwood, Garwood, Kenilworth, Linden, Mountainside, Plainfield, Rahway, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Westfield, Winfield Park, Union Township and Summit.
Flood control has been a concern among Rahway River communities for generations. The list of most damaging storms on record includes a series of four storms between 1968 and 1975, and another four in the 1990’s. Notable storms over the past 15 years occurred in 2007 (an April Nor’easter), 2011 (Hurricane Irene), 2012 (Hurricane Sandy), and Hurricane Ida, the remnants of which caused severe flooding in eight Rahway River towns last September.
Longstanding efforts to establish a regional flood control system began to coalesce after Hurricane Floyd struck in 1999, when the Rahway River towns of Cranford, Millburn, Springfield, Maplewood, Union, Garwood, Kenilworth and Rahway formed the Mayors Council to collaborate on solutions. Progress began to accelerate in 2015, after Senators Menendez and Booker, and Representative Donald Payne, Jr., secured a total of $1 million in federal funding towards the completion of a feasibility study to assess risks and alternatives, to be administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps of Engineers produced 17 flood control options during the initial years of the study, but further work was unilaterally halted in 2019 under the previous federal administration. The new funding restarts the project, reflecting the prioritization of infrastructure and resiliency during the Biden administration with bipartisan support from members of Congress.
The feasibility project is part of a new $966 million allocation of federal funding for various Army Corps of Engineers projects in New Jersey, made available through passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment Act and the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act last year. An allocation of $1.54 million will enable the study to be completed.
For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including free vaccination, free testing, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.
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